On Aug. 21 this year, a blowout ripped through an oil drilling rig operating in Australian water, more than 100 miles offshore. The rig had to be evacuated as the blowout sent crude oil spewing into the ocean. Two months later, the blowout was still raging, pumping 300 to 400 barrels of oil a day into the water. Three attempts to drill a relief well had failed and a fourth is still in progress.
It took three weeks just to get a specialized rig to the site and begin drilling the first relief well, according to The New York Times. The new well has to intercept the well that's leaking -- an effort Australian observers have said is like trying to find a needle in a haystack while blindfolded.
A month after the blowout, the Times reported that the resulting oil slick was 25 miles wide and 85 miles long. Since then the spilled oil has reached Indonesian water, according to the Jakarta Post.
Early on authorities used airplanes to hit the spill with chemical dispersants. That has helped keep oil from reaching Australia's shores, but it is still a toxic hazard to marine life on the open sea. At least two well-known reefs may be hit.
The Australian spill hasn't gotten a lot of attention in the U.S. media; it's literally half a world away. But the incident has been noticed in Florida, where offshore drilling proposals have provoked a vigorous debate.
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